Comics Alternative for Young Readers: A Roundtable Discussion on Contemporary Issues in Children’s and Young Adult Comics

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 – Introduction
  • 00:03:06 – Roundtable discussion with Charles Hatfield and Krystal Howard
  • 01:25:00 – Wrap up
  • 01:27:49 – Contact us

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Talking It Out

For this Young Readers show, Paul and Gwen change things up a bit by hosting a roundtable on the state of children’s and YA comics with two amazing scholars: Dr. Charles Hatfield, professor in the department of English at California State University, Northridge, and his new college, Dr. Krystal Howard, an assistant professor who is dual appointed in English and Liberal Studies.

The conversation in this month’s episode includes a number of timely topics, including the way scholars define children’s and YA comics, the challenges and benefits of teaching children’s comics, and the exciting formal aspects of comics, as well as other categories, such as verse novels.

Charles had just returned from the San Diego Comic Con, and he shared a list of sessions that were held in conjunction with SDCC at the San Diego Public Library, as well as commentary on this year’s nominees in the three award areas devoted to young readers: Best Publication for Early Readers, Best Publication for Kids, and Best Publication for Teens.

Another rich topic for discussion among the panelists was the portrayal of children in comics written for adults. Recent releases mentioned in this regard included Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Nick Drnaso’s Beverly, and Brecht Evens’ Panther. Recommended children’s texts that seem to be breaking conventions include Eric Orchard’s Bera, the One-Headed Troll, Drew Weing’s The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo, and favorite texts to teach included Luke Pearson’s Hilda series, Barry Deutsch’s Hereville series, and Lewis/Aydin/Powell’s March series, among others.

If listeners have been looking for a good list of must-read children’s and YA comics, this roundtable delivers on that count.

Comics Alternative, Episode 250: Reviews of The Death of Stalin, Moonstruck #1, and Kros: Hallowed Ground

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Monsters…or Others

This week on The Comics Alternative‘s regular review show, the Two Guys discuss three recent titles, all of which involve monsters….or outsiders, depending on your perspective. They begin with The Death of Stalin, written by Fabien Nury and with art by Thierry Robin (Titan Comics). This is a translation of a French text that is soon to be released as a major motion picture in the UK, and then eventually coming to the US. It’s the semi-historical account of the death of Joseph Stalin and the unusual circumstances surrounding that event. As Andy and Derek point out, Nury’s dark sense of humor is apparent throughout, while Robin’s art captures the grittiness of the context.

Next, the guys move on to Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle, and Kate Leth’s Moonstruck #1 (Image Comics). The story takes place in an urban setting, with young people going about their daily, and sometimes wacky, lives…sort of like something out of Seinfeld or Friends. However, what marks this series is its fantastical nature: everyone is a mythical figure of some sort. While Leth provides a bit of the art, the lion’s share goes to newcomer Shae Beagle, which is a stand out. And although both guys had wondered when they read the original solicit if this series may be a bit too “cute,” they find Ellis’s story mature in a way they hadn’t expected.

Finally, Andy and Derek do something they haven’t really done before: review a title that is only available through a Kickerstarter campaign. Tom Mandrake and John Ostrander’s Kros: Hallowed Ground takes place during the horrific yet decisive Battle of Gettysburg, but it’s more than just a war story. This is a landscape populated by vampires. And what better feeding ground for bloodsuckers than this battlefield? On it’s own, this narrative leaves open a few questions, but the guys sense that this is the first in a series of Kros tales that will flesh out a larger storyworld. They hope that this, as well as other future installments, might find its way to print in the future.

On Location: Our Last (?) Visit to Valhalla Games and Comic

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Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

This just may be the last on-location episode of The Comics Alternative conducted from Valhalla Games and Comics in Plano, TX. Derek is moving to North Carolina and will no longer be in the DFW area to do these shows. But customers of Valhalla and friends of the podcast, both long-timers and new listeners, come by the shop to say a fond farewell…and talk about comics. Joining Derek for this special episode are Craig, Matt, Jay, Tristan, and Kelly. Their interests are diverse, so the conversation reflects that. And they cover a lot of ground, so listen up!

Partings are tough. But as David Gates once sang, “Goodbye doesn’t mean forever.”

 

 

Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Review of Valerian and Laureline

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:25 – Introduction
  • 00:03:23 – Setup, and a big thanks to Jerome Saincantin!
  • 00:05:01 – Valerian and Laureline
  • 01:13:46 – Wrap up
  • 01:15:10 – Contact us

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Sci Fi, French Style

This month on The Comics Alternative‘s Euro Comics series, Edward and Derek devote the entire episode to Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières’s Valerian and Laureline series. They do this within the context of Luc Besson’s new film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. As the guys point out, the series’ English publisher, Cinebook, has begun to release new hardbound two-volume editions of title, but Derek and Edward are reviewing from the paperback single-story editions that have been available previously. In all, they discuss volumes 1-4, 6, 9-13, and 15, published through Cinebook between October 2010 and December 2016.

Among the many elements of Valerian and Laureline that they discuss are the evolution of Christin’s style over the course of the series, the ways in which the stories both adhere to and deviate from common science-fiction tropes, the strong (and non-objectifying) representations of Laureline, the title’s colorful cast of secondary or supporting figures, the series’ all-age quality, and the subtle ways in which the creators embed current (at the time of creation) socio-political contexts within the narrative. Even the guys only focus on one title this month, there’s more than enough to cover on this episode.

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Comics Alternative Interviews: Ger Apeldoorn

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:25 – Introduction
  • 00:02:24 – Setup of interview
  • 00:03:34 – Interview with Ger Apeldoorn
  • 01:06:35 – Wrap up
  • 01:08:17 – Contact us

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Wannabes

Just in time for the San Diego Comic-Con — where he and Craig Yoe will be meeting with fans and signing books — Ger Apeldoorn is on the show to talk with Derek about his new book, Behaving Madly: Zany, Loco, Cockeyed, Rip-off, Satire Magazines (IDW/Yoe Books). It’s a beautifully produced work that highlights the many knockoffs of Bill Gaines’s Mad that appeared between 1954 to 1959, attempting to capitalize on the kind of success the Usual Gang of Idiots enjoyed once the title changed to magazine format. These Mad wannabes appeared with such titles as From Here to InsanityCockeyedBunk!, SNAFULunatickleWho Goofed?ThimkShook UpFrenzyFrantic!LocoZany, and Nuts! You might think — or thimk — that these rip-offs would all be cheesy and subpar, but as Ger makes clear, these short-lived satire magazines included work from such comics legends as Jack Davis, Al Jaffee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Howard Nostrand, Bob Powell, Ross Andru, Basil Wolverton, and Russ Heath. Derivative and second-rate? Perhaps. But the selections in Behaving Madly are no laughing matter. Well…actually, they are.

Check out this great promo from Yoe Books!

 

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 249: Reviews of Reich, The American Way: Those Above and Those Below #1, and Time and Vine #1

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Sexual Healing

This week the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics look at three very different titles. They begin with Elijah Brubaker’s Reich, a twelve-issue biography published by Sparkplug Comics and distributed through Alternative Comics. The series reveals the life of Wilhelm Reich, the Austrian-American psychoanalyst known for his influential work in character analysis, his advocacy of orgastic potency, and, more controversially, his theories surrounding orgonomy. After that they discuss The American Way: Those Above and Those Below #1 (Vertigo Comics). Written by John Ridley with art by George Jeanty, this is a sequel to their eight-issue Wildstorm series that came out in 2008. Then Andy and Derek wrap things up with Time and Vine #1 (IDW Publishing), Thom Zahler’s followup to his 2015 miniseries Long Distance. The guys note that this latest title bears all the markings of Zahler’s previous work, including Love and Capes: engaging art, impressive dialogue, and nuanced character interaction that is both romantic and witty.

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Gabrielle Bell

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:26 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:21 – Interview with Gabrielle Bell
  • 01:00:03 – Wrap up
  • 01:01:21 – Contact us

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“The anxiety and the happiness are just so close together”

On this interview episode Andy and Derek are pleased to have as their guest Gabrielle Bell. Her latest book, Everything Is Flammable, came out recently from Uncivilized Books. The guys talk with Gabrielle extensively about the idea for this book — described as her first long-form graphic memoir — and how it evolved from her work on short diary pieces. What binds most of the entries in Everything Is Flammable are her experiences with her mother after her northern California house was destroyed in a fire. The guys also ask her about her annual event, the July diary, a project in which she was in the middle of at the time of this recording. Gabrielle discusses both the pleasures and the struggles of completing her self-imposed month-long project and how this year’s daily stories surround her time house- and pet-sitting for her friend and publisher, Tom Kaczynski. Along the way, Gabrielle reveals her various thoughts on being a semi-autobiographical cartoonist, the uncertainties of including friends and family members in her comics, the responsibilities she feels in those representations, and the very problem of trying to pigeonhole her work within a particular genre or form.

 

Comics Alternative, On Location: The Hernandez Brothers Panel at HeroesCon 2017

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:02:22 – Setup of the recording
  • 00:04:30 – The Hernandez brothers panel at HeroesCon
  • 01:08:05 – Wrap up
  • 01:09:46 – Contact us

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A Big Deal

At this year’s HeroesCon, Andy and Derek moderated a couple of panels, one of which was entirely devoted to the Hernandez brothers, Gilbert and Jaime. In this on-location episode, you’ll hear the Two Guys talking with the brothers about their new magazine-sized Love and Rockets series, the logistics of going from an annual to a quarterly, the experiences of continuity and 35+ years of character development, their efforts (especially Gilbert’s) in producing standalone works outside of any serialized format, their historical places within the larger context of non-mainstream comics, and the brothers’ thoughts on the current state of the medium.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Denis Kitchen

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:42 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:01 – Interview with Denis Kitchen
  • 01:09:50 – Wrap up
  • 01:11:09 – Contact us

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Working on (and with) the Masters

Andy and Derek are happy to have Denis Kitchen back on The Comics Alternative. On his previous appearance surrounded Will Eisner Week 2015, but this time, he discusses the Will Eisner centennial as well as his work on the Essential Kurtzman volumes. Earlier this year Dark Horse Books, through the Kitchen Sink Books imprint, published Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration: 1917-2017, a dual English-French album based on recent exhibitions at Le Musée de la Bande Dessinée in Angoulême and the Society of Illustrators in New York. Denis served as one of the curators of those exhibits, as well as one of the authors of the catalogue. He talks with the guys about his experiences helping to pull everything together for the exhibitions and working with John Lind (his Kitchen Sink Books colleague) on the centennial volume. Derek and Andy also ask him about his work on the Essential Kurtzman library, also published through Dark Horse and its Kitchen Sink Books imprint. They get the lowdown on the first two works in the series, Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book and Trump: The Complete Collection, as well as what we might expect in future volumes. The Two Guys also ask Denis about future projects from him, as not only an editor, but as an artist. He’s a little close-to-the-vest with the specifics, but nonetheless suggests that important news is to come.

Denis Kitchen – “Day I Met Will Eisner” (2005)

 

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 248: Reviews of Outburst, Steam Clean, and Resist! Vol. 2

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“Smell my book. Feel bad.”

On this week’s episode, the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics look at there new releases…and even smell them. They begin with Pieter Coudyzer’s Outburst (SelfMadeHero), a surreal meditation on creative expression and not fitting in. The narrative can even be called an example of magical realism (and the guys don’t apply that term indiscriminately), where the natural world not only becomes a refuge from human interaction, but also literally infiltrates and consumes the marginalized. Next they discuss a recent release from one of their favorite publishers, Retrofit Comics/Big Planet Comics. Laura Ķeniņš’s Steam Clean is a short yet poignant look at the challenges women and gender non-binary individuals face in their day-to-day lives. The story takes place at a women’s sauna party in some Scandinavian country, and its varied attendees use this gathering to explore their relationships and “sweat out” their frustrations. Finally, Andy and Derek wrap up with an in-depth look at the second volume of the freebie newspaper Resist! Edited by Françoise Mouly and Nadja Spiegelman, this latest release is similar to the first — which the guys reviewed earlier this year — and includes contributions from well-established as well as younger and first-time artists. Familiar names that the guys discuss include Roz Chast, Cathy Malkasian, Miss Lasko-Gross, Carol Lay, Kristen Radtke, Pénélope Bagieu, and Glynnis Fawkes, but they are equally impressed with artists and cartoonists new to them. These include Palmer Frankel’s “Dickface” series of paintings, Ana Christine’s “Persistence,” and a unique call-to-action from an anonymous contributor working for a Catholic hospital.

A special thanks to Red Pegasus Comics in Dallas, TX, for providing the Two Guys with their copies of Resist! Vol. 2!

Comics Alternative, Webcomics: Reviews of Gods Can’t Die, Kamikaze, and The Secret Life of Gitmo’s Women

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Slow Build

Sean and Derek are back with their monthly foray into the realm of webcomics. They begin with Z. Akhmatova’s Gods Can’t Die, a lavishly illustrated fantasy of adventure and self-discovery. This is a relatively young webcomic, beginning in April 2016, so readers can easily jump on board with its prologue and first chapter. It’s the story of Ena, born of both human and god, as she searches for her deity father and encounters other gods and creatures along the way. Next, they discuss Kamikaze, a futuristic dystopic tale created by Alan Tupper, Carrie Tupper, and Havana Nguyen. Its teenage protagonist, Markesha Nin, is a lightning-fast courier making deliveries within competing corporate interests and trying to provide for her blind father. The guys can’t help but think of CW’s The Flash when discussing this series. Finally, Sean and Derek wrap up with Sarah Mirk and Lucy Bellwood’s The Secret Life of Gitmo’s Women. This already-completed webcomic appears in the online magazine Narratively, and it presents the first-person accounts of two female naval veterans and their experiences at Guantanamo Bay. The conflict in their stories isn’t what you might expect, but instead have everything to do with the military’s (and our culture’s) patriarchal structures.

 

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 247: The July Previews Catalog

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No Keanu. No Rock.

It’s the first week of the month, so that must mean that it’s time once again for Andy and Derek to check out the latest Previews catalog. As they go through the July solicitations, they highlight a variety of upcoming titles from publishers such as:

 

 

 

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness and Golden Kamuy

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Getting Real

It’s the end of the month, so that must mean that it’s time for Shea and Derek to discuss their latest manga recommendations. They begin with Kabi Nagata’s My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness (Seven Seas Entertainment), a deeply personal autobiographical work whose title is perhaps more provocative than it is revealing. In fact, the guys spend a good bit of time talking about the underlying impulses embedded in the text and how sexual preferences take a backseat to the deeper longings that Nagata reveals. This is a manga all about self-discovery, a diary-like account of the author’s attempts to understand herself within the context of her culture and her yearning for what she calls “next level communication.” As Derek and Shea highlight, this is in some ways an example yuri manga, but at the same time such a designation doesn’t do the text justice.

Next, they look at the first volume of Satoru Noda’s Golden Kamuy (VIZ Media). This is a more realistically based narrative that takes place in the wake of the Russo-Japanese War. The protagonist, Saichi Sugimoto, gained a reputation during the war as an almost invulnerable hero, but he lives his post-war years unsuccessfully prospecting for gold in the Hokkaido region. There he befriends a young Ainu woman, Asirpa, and together they begin hunting down a legendary hidden treasure with a violent pedigree. Both Shea and Derek appreciate the story’s realism and historical context — in many ways, this is a didactic text — but they’re not yet sure of how Noda will handle the indigenous Ainu culture. That being said, they’re both definitely on board for future volumes.

 

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 246: Reviews of Greek Diary, Paper Pencil Life, and KatZine

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:29 – Introduction
  • 00:02:36 – Listener messages!
  • 00:08:24 – HeroesCon, podcast fans, and self-published comics
  • 00:14:58 – Greek Diary
  • 00:37:36 – Paper Pencil Life
  • 00:59:42 – KatZine
  • 01:16:04 – Wrap up
  • 01:17:17 – Contact us

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DIY

This week on The Comics Alternative, Andy and Derek do something they’ve never done before on the podcast: discuss only self-published titles. They got the idea for this special episode from one of the creators they look at, Glynnis Fawkes, when she was kind enough to send them copies of her latest book. So after hearing from her, Derek and Andy thought, “Why not devote an entire episode to creators like Glynnis?”

Appropriately enough, they begin with Fawkes’s book, Greek Diary, which won the 2017 MoCCAfest Award of Excellence. This is an account of the author’s experiences in Greece during June and early July 2016. Fawkes devoted the first part of her diary to her work as an archeological illustrator, but the majority of the text covers the time that her family joined her for vacation after her professional obligations. As the Two Guys reveal, this part of Greek Diary is an entertaining mix between a travelogue and a journal of familial “challenges.” (If you’ve ever traveled with small children, you certainly know what that means.)

Next, they discuss the first four issues of Summer Pierre’s Pencil Paper Life. This is Pierre’s ongoing collection of diary comics that she began keeping back in 2013. Each issue is a series of the creator’s occasional observations, reflections, and personal accounts that mostly follow a standard nine-panel grid. These comics explore her life as an artist, memories linked to pop-cultural signposts, her efforts in negotiating varying social terrains, and especially her joys — as well as her struggles — in being a mother.

Finally, the guys wrap up with Katriona Chapman’s KatZine. At the time of the recording there are so far seven issues that have been released, and this title stands out from Fawkes’s and Pierre’s in several ways. First, KatZine is more of a single-author anthology, with there being a variety of entries, including several regular features (including “Sergio Talk!,” “Local Business,” “Featured Plant,” and “Fears and Loves”). It’s also different in that the comic is a mix between straight-out comics and prose-heavy pieces. In other words, this is a zine in the more traditional sense. But KatZine also stands in contrast to Greek Diary and Paper Pencil Life in that it’s not entirely autobiographically based. There are a few pieces collected among the seven issues that are clearly fictional in nature. What’s more, in some of her more recent issues Chapman expresses her interests in melding life writing with fiction, an impulse that she is apparently carrying into her first graphic novel.

Please help support these independent creators by visiting their websites and buying their comics:

 

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock

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Time Codes:

  • 00:25 – Introduction
  • 02:31 – Setup of interview
  • 03:11 – Interview with Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock
  • 54:00 – Wrap up
  • 57:40- Contact us

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Sailing Takes Me Away…

On this interview episode, Gwen and Derek are pleased to have as their guest the creators behind the Four Points books, Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock. The second (and perhaps final) work in the series, Knife’s Edge, comes out this week from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and your two highly credentialed cohosts talk with the creators about the new book and follow up to last year’s Compass South. Over the course of their conversation Rebecca and Hope discuss the genesis of the project, their process for collaboration, the research that went into the two books, and the evolution of the various characters that populate their narrative. They even tease a little bit about their yet-unannounced new collaboration that’s completely separate from the Four Points series.